The Your Pregnancy Facebook page is full of questions. Midwife and childbirth educator Tina Otte answers some of them.
Q: What is the line running down my tummy?
The dark vertical line that often appears between the belly button and the pubic area is called linea nigra (meaning dark line). This line usually appears in the second trimester of pregnancy and is associated with oestrogen levels and melanocyte stimulating hormone deposits under the skin.
Women who are dark-skinned tend to have a darker linea nigra than women who are fair-skinned. Linea nigra occurs naturally and tends to fade away. In most cases it fades in the weeks following delivery, but can remain visible for some women.
During summer months when midlines come into contact with sunlight, the line may darken. It is important to continue wearing sunscreen (even in winter) in order to keep the darkness of the line to a minimum.
Q: Can I breastfeed my other baby while pregnant?
The simple answer is yes. As long as it’s a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and you have no history of miscarriage, then go ahead. Usually a breastfed baby will sense the difference in the taste of your breastmilk (due to the pregnancy hormones in your body), which may result in your baby weaning himself.
Q: How soon after a c-section can I have sex?
It is recommended that you wait six weeks before resuming sexual relations. However, some couples do start a month after birth if the mother is comfortable. After a c-section birth there is a lot of healing that has to take place, so you may have to be creative with positions or find other ways to express intimacy, affection and love.
Q: I've got such bad toothache, help!
Do not delay in getting to the dentist as soon as possible. Ideally you should see your dentist at least once during your pregnancy and if possible an oral hygienist twice.
Swollen gums and hormonal changes make you more likely to develop gum disease, which could be a problem for your unborn baby as well. Use toothpaste that has xylitol in it and brush and floss your teeth twice a day. Mouthwash is also an option.
Q: I'm pregnant and I have such bad stretch marks. What can I do?
Stretch marks (often referred to as stripes of honour) are a type of scarring that can occur when skin stretches beyond its limits. They appear as faint lines that are typically reddish or purple in colour.
Stretch marks occur as a result off a weakening or breaking of the elastic fibres deep in the skin. In pregnancy they usually appear on the lower abdomen, breasts, thighs and buttocks.
They occur as a result of weight gain and in some instances due to hormonal changes. While stopping the development of stretch marks is impossible, applying a good quality cream or oil for stretch marks is the first thing you can do to minimise them.
Dry skin is not as elastic as moisturised skin and thus has difficulty stretching as the uterus or other parts of the body grow, leading to stretch marks. Regular exercise also helps. Strengthening the muscles under the skin may prevent some of the breakdown that occurs during pregnancy.
Wear a supportive bra, as your breasts may become heavy and drag on your skin, contributing to stretch marks on the breasts. Gaining weight is the main reason stretch marks occur. The faster a pregnant woman gains weight, the faster stretch marks will develop. Gradual weight gain allows the skin enough time for the skin to stretch and repair.
Q: How long after seeing the mucus plug does labour usually start?
The appearance of a mucus plug does not necessarily mean that labour is imminent. The plug can be dislodged during lovemaking (towards the end of pregnancy) and if this happens, the body makes more and plugs up again.
It may also be disturbed during a vaginal exam, and once again the body will make sure it makes more mucus to plug up. Every woman will start labour in her own way and although a show is one of the signs of labour, it is not usually the first or most reliable sign of labour.
You may start labour with contractions first and then have a show, or your waters may break first. If you are close to your due date and your mucus plug comes away, it may take a few days/hours before labour starts. There is no set time unfortunately.
Q: I woke up and my bed was all wet. How do I know if it is discharge or sweating?
Vaginal discharge has a slightly more mucus texture than sweat. Also it would be more profuse between your legs. If your bed is wet or damp – I would guess that it is sweat. During pregnancy you do tend to perspire more as you get rid of heat for your baby as well. Wear cotton pajamas to reduce sweating. Always check with your caregiver if you are not sure.
Q: I dislocated my hip. My gynae suggested I go for a c-section. Is this the only way I can give birth, given my history?
There are many variables at play – for example, have you had pain and limited movement? Do you struggle to walk, and did you have low back pain pre-pregnancy? Remembering that pregnancy will highlight any flaws you may have had, it is not unusual for you to be feeling more discomfort at this stage.
Anassessment with a chiropractor or physiotherapist can give you a better idea of what to expect in labour. Positioning may indeed play a big part in helping you achieve a vaginal birth, and lying down in a semi-recumbent position will limit your chances. You would need to be as upright as possible and possibly adopt an all fours position for delivery.
Labouring in water may also help. If you labour in the conventional way (spending most of your time in bed) you may need medicated forms of pain relief, which would possibly limit your ability to adopt the positions that would actually help you achieve what you want to achieve.